Charwei Tsai: Root of Desire

Charwei Tsai: Root of Desire


Charwei Tsai, Root of Desire, Water Moon and Hear Her Singing, 2018. Video installation, dimension variable. Courtesy of TKG+ and Charwei Tsai.

November 22, 2018
Charwei Tsai
Root of Desire
December 8, 2018–January 20, 2019
Opening: December 8, 4:30–7pm
1F, No.15, Ln. 548, Ruiguang Rd.
Taipei 11492
Neihu Dist.
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 11am–7pm

T +886 2 2659 0798
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Charwei Tsai’s solo exhibition, the Root of Desire, centers around desire and preludes to the classical maieutic discourse of the Vimalakirti Sutra. It is a profound and sophic exploration of the metaphysical troika encompassing her own life, nature, and humanity. This ancient spiritual text is one of the first recorded in Asia that with an emphasis on social equality. When asked “How should one look at a sentient being?” Vimalakirti responded, “the way a wise person looks at the reflection of the moon in water.[1]” The non-duality “propositioned” in the text alludes to equality and sameness. The exhibited works showcase Tsai’s long-term examination of Mahāyāna and Hīnayāna Buddhism and is an experiment in exhibiting both her personal and social practice.

Transcribing the Vimalakirti Sutra, the artist imprints this vessel for emptiness upon her impermanent form until she becomes one with it. The exhibition moves on to a personal journey through a vast desert landscape portrayed in the new video installation, Root of Desire (2018). In this work, the artist inscribes a conversation between Vimalakirti and Manjusri that deconstructs desire into rootlessness. As the sand is scattered by the wind, the text also disintegrates. The work articulates the search for desire in its differing manifestations. In a new series of drawings, “The Goddess” (2018), the artist inscribes a text from the sutra onto drawings of a forest. This excerpt derives from a notable passage in the sutra: a Goddess conducts a gender exchange between herself and a monk to illustrate equality between the sexes. The artist contemplates nature at this stage to exemplify the Buddhist philosophy of emptiness, which is the experiential understanding that all compounded things disintegrate.

Three videos installations of people forcibly scattered across the corners of this world mark the end of this journey. The three video installations, Songs of Chuchepati Camp, Nepal (2017), Hear Her Singing (2017), and Songs of Kaohsiung Migrant Workers (2018), capture people from all over the world who in face of displacement as a result of social, political, and economic injustice. The artist thus shifts her focus to humanity and collects a series of voices that have been overlooked in this world.

[1] The bodhisattva regards living beings the same way a magician regards the beings they conjure or how a wise person regards the moon’s reflection in the water, to the bodhisattva, all are illusions.


About Charwei Tsai
Charwei Tsai was born in 1980 and currently lives and works in Taipei. She graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design in Industrial Design and Art & Architectural History (2002), and the postgraduate research program La Seine at L’École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris (2010).

Tsai has had solo exhibitions and projects internationally including: Charwei Tsai: Bulaubulau Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (CFCCA) (2018), Manchester, UK; Water Moon, Institute of Contemporary Art, Villeurbanne/Rhône-Alpes, France and Hear Her Singing, a project commissioned by Hayward Gallery at Southbank Centre, London (both in 2017); A Dedication to the Sea, curated by Eugene Tan at Espace Culturel Louis Vuitton, Singapore (2012) and Water, Earth and Air, curated by Suhanya Raffel at Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, Sydney (2009). She has participated in group exhibitions and biennials including Minimalism: Space, Light, Object at Art & Science Museum in collaboration with National Gallery Singapore, Scared Spaces at Rubin Museum of Art, New York (both in 2018); Biennale of Sydney (2016), Simple Shapes at Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2015) and Centre Pompidou-Metz, France (2014); Sharjah Biennial (2013), Yokohama Triennial (2011), 6th Asia Pacific Triennial (2009), Traces of the Sacred, Centre Pompidou, Paris (2008), Thermocline of Art: New Asian Waves at ZKM Center of Art and Media, Karlsruhe (2007), and the inaugural Singapore Biennale (2006).

Tsai’s works are in public and private collections including those held at the Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Mori Art Museum, Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, Yokohama Museum of Art, FRAC Lorraine, Institute of Contemporary Art, Villeurbanne, Kadist Foundation, Uli Sigg Collection, and Faurschou Foundation, Copenhagen.

Tsai has also published a curatorial journal titled Lovely Daze twice a year since 2005. The complete sets of Lovely Daze are in the library collections of Tate Modern, London, Museum of Modern Art, New York, Pompidou Center, Paris, and Museum of Contemporary Art, Barcelona.

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November 22, 2018

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